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As I mentioned in last week’s blog on the fantastic Carole Price, we have three more Trivalley Mystery Authors to interview and enjoy!  This week I need to thank multiple award-winning author, Ann Parker, for taking the time to share her thoughts and enthusiasm on her books, the publishing world and the wild, wild west that was the Silver Rush in Colorado during the 1880’s.

I met Ann on an appearance at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton during her Murder in the Valley Book Tour with fellow authors Carole Price, Staci McLaughlin and Penny Warner.  This tour still has dates coming up, so if you live locally this is a can-do, must-do event!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012, 1:00 p.m.
Danville Public Library
319 N. Vermilion Street
Danville, California

Saturday, November 3, 2012, 6 p.m.
“A Literary Feast”
Lafayette Library and Learning Center
3491 Mount Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, California

Saturday, November 10, 2012, 11 a.m.
“Second Saturday” Bookclub
Berkeley, California

Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 7 p.m.
Livermore Public Library
Livermore, California
***-With author Camille Minichino, special event for NaNoWriMo: Tips on getting through the “muddle in the middle”

For more information on the world of Ann Parker, please check out her website:

– Of all the places in the world, Leadville? What about this place first drew your attention to it?
I came to Leadville through family history… and pretty late in life, actually!  It turns out my paternal grandmother was raised in Leadville. The strange thing is, although she told us grandkids many a tale of her life as a young married woman in Denver, she NEVER mentioned Leadville to us at all. It was my Uncle Walt who told me this tidbit of family information. I’d never heard of Leadville, but my uncle described it with such enthusiasm (“It was a h-ll of a place! One of the great mining centers of the world! A huge silver rush back in the 19th century!” etc. etc.) that I became intrigued. Uncle Walt then told me: “I know you’ve been thinking about writing a novel. I think you should research Leadville and write a novel set there.” So I did. Not quite as easy as that, but it was the impetus that got me going. Once I started reading about Leadville and its background, I was entranced. I staked my claim in Leadville, and the rest, you might say, is history!

Book One of the Silver Rush Mystery Series- Silver Lies

– I have just finished Silver Lies, which I adored, and I am thrilled to see that you have THREE more in the series in print.  How many books do you envision for the series?  Will they all feature Inez Stannert?

Well, I don’t envision a set number of books… I intend to just keep writing until I run out of time or energy or both!  At this point, I’m focused on Inez and her situation (which becomes ever more complicated as the series progresses). I have toyed with the idea of eventually writing a Silver Rush novel from the point of view of Doc Cramer or Susan Carothers. Or even jumping forward in time, twenty or so years, and writing one from the point of view of Inez’s son. As noted, it just depends on my time and energy.

Book Two of the Silver Rush Mystery Series- Iron Ties

– Your novels are a fascinating mix of real life and fictional characters. As a writer, what is more fun: creating your own characters or taking the opportunity to play with real people in your stories?

Thank you, Erika! Ooooo, that’s a difficult one to answer. Since the core characters are all fictional, I suppose that’s where my heart lies. But I do enjoy researching the real people of the times and working them into the storyline, as appropriate. I can get very obsessed about some of them, almost becoming a “stalker of the past,” in trying to uncover who they were and what they were like.

Book Three of the Silver Rush Mystery Series- Leaden Skies

– Which of the real life characters of the Colorado Silver Rush of the 1880’s most fascinates you?  Why?

I hope I don’t have to pick just one!  I’m fascinated, in general, by the women of the times. People like Mattie Silks, one of the famous Denver madams of the late 1800s. Augusta Tabor, who was Horace Tabor’s first wife. (Horace Tabor was one of the most famous “silver kings” of Leadville… he had a rags-to-riches-to-rags story that is almost mythical in nature.) I’m particularly intrigued by Mrs. Anna Galbreaith, who I stumbled across in my research for the fourth book in the series, MERCURY’S RISE. Mrs. Galbreaith was a photographer in Manitou Springs in the 1880s. There’s very little I could find out about her, although I did procure one of her cabinet cards of Manitou Springs. As for the men, I think Bat Masterson is a fascinating character: This is someone who successfully “morphed” from the Wild West of the 19th century into the Urban East in the 20th century, from buffalo hunter to lawman to professional gambler to fight promoter to sports writer… and not always on the right side of the law throughout this time span. He died in New York, in 1921, slumped over his typewriter at his desk.

Book Four of the Silver Rush Mystery Series- Mercury’s Rise

– Your protagonist, Inez, is one amazing woman who does not seem to suffer fools gladly.  I know you mentioned you drew inspiration from your own sister, but are there any traits that you share with Inez?

Inez and I share a love of classical music. However, I only listen. She plays.

– I think your books would make an amazing television series or mini series.  Dreaming big here, who would you cast as Abe? Inez? Handsome Rev. Sands? And I have to ask, Harry Gallagher?

I’ll cross my fingers for that! As for casting, perhaps you can answer that better than I. When I first started writing the series, back in the late 1990s, I thought Morgan Freeman might make a good Abe. I always pictured Inez as looking like my maternal grandmother. (I gave Inez my paternal grandmother’s name, and my maternal grandmother’s looks. She was, by all accounts and from the photos I have, quite a looker and had gorgeous long dark hair that she would wind up in a knot, per the fashion of the days.) As for the rest of the crew, I’m stumped. I’d love to know what your “picks” would be…

– Your writing has a gritty, even dark slant to it in places, which adds to the suspense and the vividness of the action.  Have you ever thought of writing a different genre, or even a different type of mystery? What would it be and why?

I would love to try my hand at steampunk “on the dark side.” I enjoy the books I’ve read in the genre. Steampunk (for those who haven’t heard of it before) usually incorporates the Victorian Era, technology (of the steam era), and science fiction/alternate history (check the wikipedia entry for more information ) . It combines a number of elements I love, including science, science fiction, and history. Lots of leather, brass, and glass. A funny thing: as a young teen, one of my favorite TV shows was the Wild Wild West, which (as it turns out) is often cited as one of the earliest mainstream examples of steampunk-ery.

– What sort of writing do you admire the most?  Who are your favorite authors?

I love writing that takes me to other places and times such that the outside world “disappears.” This magical moment happens less and less these days, as I tend to read novels with a more critical/analytical eye than I did before (one of the casualties of becoming a fiction writer!). One of my favorite contemporary authors is Martin Cruz Smith. Other writers I admire include William Shakespeare, John Milton, W.B. Yeats, and T.S. Eliot (lingering faves from my long-ago college days). I also love Sandra Dallas’ writing… she creates marvelous, evocative historical novels, many of which take place in Colorado .

– If you could share one overlooked or little known author with the world, who would it be and why?  (No fair using anyone from your critique group- we already know they’re wonderful.  Besides, how could you pick just one?)

Oh boy. Another difficult question. Michelle Black writes very engaging historical fiction. I recently finished her newest novel SÉANCE IN SEPIA, which has lingered with me.

I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen others, as soon as I send this to you.

– What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?  Marketing? Editing? Creating? What makes it your favorite?

Researching!  I love the serendipity of research. I might be trotting in one direction, looking up information about some specific topic, and then stumble into a gem that ends up being a key part of the story I’m creating. I have to be very firm with myself about putting the research aside and getting down to the business of writing.

– “Serendipity” is one of my favorite words, Ann. What skills, other than the ability to spin a good yarn, do you believe writers today could benefit from developing?

Stamina. Persistence. Manners (? Is that a skill?). Having marketing skills—particularly being proficient with online/social media—also seems to be a HUGE plus in today’s world.

– Do you have any words of wisdom for other writers?  For example, perhaps things NOT to do?

Don’t diss other writers, agents, or publishers. It’s a small world, and that sort of talk gets around.

– What do you think your readers would be most surprised to know about you in your private life?

Readers of SILVER LIES would probably be surprised to learn that we have pet rats here at the homestead. Two of them. Mushi and Chewbacka are, of course, very sweet and tame… nothing like the wild rats one finds in the back alleys or the Silver Queen Saloon!

Ann Parker, author of The Silver Rush Mystery Series

Ann in front of a map of her beloved Leadville, CO.

Ann, you are amazing, just like your books!  Thank you for your time and all the wonderful insights into your work.  I shall be reading your remaining books with glee!

Incidentally, as to casting, hmmm, I admit, it’s a tough question.  I had thought Danny Glover for Abe, and I toy with the idea of Jennifer Connelly as Inez.  Renee Zellweger is not my favorite actress, but, I wonder, she’s a good character actress, maybe as Mattie Silks?  I like Kevin Spacey for Gallagher, so hard to tell if he is a good guy or a bad guy.  He’ll need to play against type as Inez needs to have fallen for him, if only briefly.  He’d have to display a charming streak.   Lastly, what about Christian Bale for Sands? He’s pretty, he’s young, but he plays tough characters. I realize this is taking terrible liberties with your creations, Ann, so feel free to cringe, or even throw something!

Thank you, again!!!

Ann’s books are available from your independent book store, through her publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Large print is also available.
Alright, readers, be sure to check out next week’s mystery writer, also from Livermore (there must be something in the water there), Staci McLaughlin!!!


Last week my writers’ critique group, The Beer & Bacon Babes (aka The BBB’s), had a night out at Towne Center Books on Main Street in Pleasanton.  We were there because four fabulous LOCAL authors were doing a book signing.  Well, honey, you put four great mystery authors, wine and chocolate at a book store in front of me and my friends?  It’s just like we’ve died and gone to heaven.

Photo by Amy Moellering, used with permission from Towne Center Books.

As four very different, but equally intelligent and engaging ladies began sharing their stories with us I knew a.) I needed to read them all and b.) you had to meet them.  Ladies & Gentlemen of my blogging universe allow me to introduce: Carole Price, Ann Parker, Staci McLaughlin and Penny Warner. Lady Authors, please meet… everyone.  It’s clear that this sort of intro won’t do anyone any justice so… Ergo, these interviews.  I will be interviewing each of these authors in turn weekly because that is just how amazing they all are.

This week we’ll be meeting Carole Price, the author of Twisted Vines.  This is Carole’s first published novel and the beginning to a wonderful new cozy mystery series, The Shakespeare in the Vineyard Mysteries.  I read Twisted Vines in a day.  Imagine a beautiful, but independent-minded crime analyst, our heroine Caitlyn Pepper who has just inherited a fortune from an aunt she has never heard of, let alone met.  Now picture that maybe not everyone is happy about Cait’s inheritance, and maybe didn’t care for the aunt either… It was a page turner full of vivid and complex characters, action, twists, a dash of romance and just right amount of danger.  I highly recommend it.

Author, police volunteer, hiker, mother and wife- she does it all!

So let’s find out a bit more about Carole Price…

– Sorry to go for the obvious question, but where did the idea of Shakespeare in the Livermore Valley come from?

A. When our daughter, Carla, moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I started attending many of the plays. I fell in love with the Bard. I signed on for a back stage tour and thought how fun it would be to bring Shakespeare to the Livermore Valley, create my own festival, and toss in a few bodies.

– What other places in the TriValley do you love and might possible pop up in future books?

A. I hope to feature more at Las Positas College. Cait needs to venture out more, probably to Pleasanton. Although not in the Tri Valley area, I have an idea for a book in Niles/Fremont where there’s a fun silent film museum.

– Do you have a guilty pleasure spot in Livermore?  You know, something off the diet, a spa or maybe a nail salon?  Some place that you can spoil yourself just a bit?

A. Not really. I do hike almost every week in the hills in and around Livermore. I get inspiration from that and take tons of pictures.

– Did you research this book?  How so? What was your favorite part of this learning process?

A. I arranged to talk with someone from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival about their actors, i.e., their education, experience, etc. I bought lots of books and materials from their gift shop and used the Internet to research weapons from that era. To learn about police procedures, I went through Livermore’s Citizen Police Academy and am an active police volunteer. I role play with the SWAT team, work at events (Livermore rodeo, festivals, etc.), and have a “regular” weekly volunteer job. The officers have been great answering my questions.

– Your main character, Cait, is a dynamic, vibrant woman.  What is your favorite quality about her?

A. Cait’s integrity and honesty runs deep. She’s a good friend.

– I love Cait’s name, Caitlyn Tilson Pepper.  How did you chose your protagonist’s name?  Did you think of it or did the character sort of simply “be” the name?

A. I love her name too. I wanted a name easy to remember and easy to pronounce. My daughter had a friend named Caitlyn. Tilson is the middle name of a San Francisco symphony conductor. Pepper just came to me.

– As your series develops, can you give us a hint as to how Caitlyn may change as she comes into her inheritance and leaves her law enforcement background behind?  Or do you ever leave that kind of experience behind?

A. Good question. I’m told that once a cop, always a cop. Cait struggles with this as she works with a detective from the Livermore PD to solve crimes that affect her or her Shakespeare festival. She’s impatient when told to let the police do their job, that she’s no longer a cop. But Cait has changed. She’s come to terms with family secrets. She’s taking viticulture classes at the local college and will become involved with Livermore’s wine associations. And she may learn to love again.

–  Okay, I have to ask, as any woman would, will we see hunky R.T. again?  And, is he based on anyone in real life?  (Please say yes!)

A. I love RT. He’s a keeper. He’s a composite of traits I like, and I did a little Internet research on Navy SEALS. He had to be organized, cynical, anti-social at times, a private person, and a thinker. And, of course, hunky. The name Royal Tanner just popped into mind as a strong name with character. I did have a friend with the last name of Tanner.

– Did you always want to be a writer?  What led you to this path?

A. Sorry, I wish I could say I always wanted to write. But I am an avid reader, particularly mysteries, and thought it would be fun to create my own story. I didn’t start writing until I retired. I met an author at a book signing who encouraged me to write. When she invited me to join her critique group, I jumped at the opportunity.

– It comes up in almost every interview, but, the question remains, you’ve achieved your dream, what words of wisdom do you have for the writers trying to make it today?

A. Don’t give up. Write every day. I had lots of rejections on my first (still unpublished) book. I used to think all I had to do was sit behind my computer and make up stuff. Not so. Join a critique group and attend conferences. Sign up for a writing workshop. Be involved.

– I know you rely on your critique group for solid feedback, would you recommend a critique group to other writers?  What do you like best about your group?  (No fair saying lunch!)

A. Absolutely. Twisted Vines would never have been published if not for my critique group. We meet every Friday to discuss our books, conferences, the world of publishing, and social media. We give positive feedback. We support each other and celebrate our successes.

– While I would never ask for spoilers to your forthcoming sequel, Sour Grapes, can you give us any hint on what Cait may be facing next time around?

A. Cait was a police officer before becoming a crime analyst. An unpleasant situation during her years as a cop comes back to haunt her. Sorry, but any more would give it away.

– I am ready NOW for the sequel, when can we buy it?

A. Ha. I hope Five Star will offer me a contract for Sour Grapes after I send them a synopsis. That should be soon since I only have two more chapters of the first draft left to write. I know my publisher is pleased with my promotional efforts. And I just learned that Twisted Vines will come out in large print in January 2013.

– Finally, I am a wine drinking gal.  Please dish, what is your favorite Livermore Valley wine?  It’s okay if you have more than one!

A. I’m a tea drinker, but I do like Wente wines and only white.

Carole, I’m partial to Earl Grey myself.  Thank you so much for taking the time to share your craft and your characters with us today.  We’ll all be looking forward to Sour Grapes!

To purchase Twisted Vines I always encourage people to call your local independent bookseller, like our own Towne Center Books at 555 Main Street, Pleasanton 925-846-8826.  However, failing that, Carole’s book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You can keep up with the latest Shakespeare in the Valley Mystery by checking out Carole’s website:

Twisted Vines by Carole Price

More Murder in the Valley Book Tour Dates!

Sunday, Sept. 23, 4 p.m.
Book Passage
Corte Madera

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1 p.m.
Danville Library
Danville, CA

Thursday, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Lafayette Library
Lafayette, CA

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m.
Livermore Library
Livermore, CA

I live in a small town, say 65,000 residents.  It has good schools, lots of beautiful parks, (we even keep a naturalist on staff), great shopping, wonderful restaurants, … and of course, it goes without saying, nice, oh so very nice, people.

One would think.

Turns out, not so much. 

One of our residents, Siah Fried, has written what I think is a very timely and amusing little book.  Entertaining, but with a barbed edge, a sharp wit aimed at we parents.  I mean, let’s face it, adults are simply kids with bigger egos and still larger paychecks.  There are times when we act out.  It’s not always pretty.  Ms. Fried in her book Tales of Swankville takes aim at us all, herself included.

I enjoyed the book.  Please note, Critics Corner, I actually read the book, unlike some, well, most of you.  However, the blame and recriminations can wait for later, just scroll down if you are feeling frisky. 

This morning I had no idea who Siah Fried was.  I had never heard of Tales From Swankville.  First, my walking partner brought the brew-ha-ha to my attention.  Then a friend who writes for a local paper mentioned it.  Naturally, once I was home I went straight to my computer and looked it up.  Our local news outlet, The Patch, had published an article on the book.  Then, as they say, the-you-know-what hit the fan.

 I watched, first in delight (people discussing books, oh my- how fun!), then in growing mortification as the comments to the Patch website continued to be posted.  I was horrified and when I’m saying the word I’m saying it like this, “hor-ri-FIED”. 

Allow me to digress, as I so frequently do.  Indulge me, my friends.  This author has taken her observations over the last twelve years or so of child rearing, dealing with fellow parents, living in our town and then distilled them into a sort of Fractured Fairy Tales for the twenty-first century.  It is a cautionary tale about parents who, though loving, go over the top, stage mom style.  She recounts these fables of misguided suburban mentoring, parents acting out and then holds the mirror up to us all.  What kind of parents are we?  Who do we want to be? What could we do better? In fact, what could she do better? 

I mentioned that she used her own observations.  The experts tell us, “Write what you know”.  So the author did.  However, she made up an Anytown, USA.  Her characters are composites. Her stories are essays, brief glimpses into her reality.  There are no physical descriptions (well, I found two, both vague) and the characters are simply glimpses; we know nothing of their circumstances, their foibles or integral traits.  It would seem; no harm, no foul.

Enter, The Neighbors.  These people are shouting to the rooftops to anyone who will listen (or read online) that they are people mentioned in the book.  These stories are about them.  They have been spied upon, they have been victimized, their children have been mocked, their privacy invaded, in short, cry me a flipping river.  The author does not mention, nor can one tell from reading the book, what town she was drawing her inspiration from.  Of course, The Neighbors make sure to inform the world of that.  I promise, because lordy, did I look, there’s no way to track down who these characters are- we simply don’t see enough of them.  If you see yourself in this lighthearted urban fable then that says more about YOU and less about the author.  As Yoda once told a young Luke Skywalker, the Cave holds only what you bring into it.

As for the kids, clearly, they’re the good guys.  The book’s portrayal of children is very positive.  They are the heroes and the victims.  While we adults may blow it, it appears our kids are handling things far better than we are. (Well, thank goodness.)

Let’s get back to my, oh so lovely town, shall we?  I really do love where I live.  There’s nothing flippant about my tone when I say that.  And there’s nothing flippant in my tone when I say, and I’m using small words on purpose:

I don’t care for bullies.

There is a modern-day lynching going on in my city.  First, it was the author.  She told a story that needed to be told, violated no one’s privacy and defended our children admirably.  Her job has been attacked, her house has been egged and her kids are being targeted.  I should specify, it is not other youngsters targeting her children; it is their parents who are going after these girls.  Next, it was a local restaurant that was going to host a book signing for the author.  A friend at the Patch informed me that the Neighbors and a few of their friends threatened the owner of Eddie Papas with a boycott if he dared host the signing.  He canceled and it was moved a location in a neighboring town.  Mind you, Ed, the folks at Birdland (yes, that’s the neighborhood’s actual name) might or might not have been eating at your restaurant anyway but I understand, you’re a small business owner.  What can you do?  Lastly, these nincompoops targeted the bookstore, our local, independent bookstore, Towne Center Books on Main Street.  They said if Towne Center Books did not pull Tales From Swankville from their shelves then they would organize a boycott targeting the store.  No mention was made of Amazon who has the book for purchase and the download available on your Kindle. 

I don’t care for bullies.  

Leave my bookstore alone.  Leave Siah Fried alone. And definitely, definitely leave her kids out of this.  Shame on you.  Shame on you all.

My blog this week was going to be on a vastly different topic.  I had been researching the twin topics of the death penalty debate and the recent oil companies quarterly profits when Hurricane Swankville hit.  Once I read the comments, all sixty-plus pages of them, posted to the Patch’s website, I knew what I’d be talking about. 

I said I live with nice people.  Let me clarify, I live with mostly nice people.  There are people on this link hiding behind pseudonyms (hello Birdland resident, EyeHeartPtown and others) who use their online anonymity to spew hateful rhetoric.  Still, as bad they are, check out “Elizabeth” and “Lisa”.  They’ve taken a book whose reputation they don’t like and clearly have NOT read and are systematically planning to target the author’s livelihood, her character, her children, start lawsuits and petition for restraining orders.  But don’t worry, folks, they’re very “nice” upstanding citizens and if you’ve lived in town for at least thirty years, pay at least $3000+ per month in property taxes and support the Tea Party Movement, you’re allowed an opinion.  Otherwise, shut up and surrender Dorothy.  Ah shoot, that’s the Wicked Witch of the West, isn’t it?  Funny, “Lisa”, I really can’t see the difference.  Oh wait, the Wicked Witch isn’t real.  

Of the sixty-plus pages of venomous diatribe on:

Forty-plus of it is from “Lisa” and “Elizabeth”.  Who knows what their real names are.  They hide behind the Internet’s shield, using cowards’ techniques to attack and hurt.  They say they’re good neighbors and would never go after their fellow townspeople but they are targeting a family, hurting small business owners (whom I consider my “neighbors”) and have nurtured the perfect storm- one that would have NEVER existed had they not helped to create it. 

There is more to this, of course.  There always is.  There’s the neighbor who put a banner on her garage door proclaiming her character in the book (hello, guilty conscience, just a bit?) while simultaneously attacking the author for her (the neighbor’s) loss of privacy.  Are you KIDDING me?  There are the adults who directed their angst at grade school girls today.  There is the elementary school that asked the author to leave when she showed up for work today.  They couldn’t have the controversy on campus.  I mean, how dare Ms. Fried examine how the enormous stress we put on our children might be damaging our kids.  We can’t have people in our schools who actually advocate for the students, right?  What kind of message would that send?

 I don’t care for bullies. 

I need to apologize.  I am angry.    This anger has led me to use quotation marks way too many times in this post.  I’m sorry that you all had to see me like this. 



"What's in there?" "Only what you take with you." -Yoda and Luke Skywalker

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